This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume ," Feb. 22, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: So is Harvard University as conservative critics claim, a hotbed of liberals, faculty, and students alike? Or is there, as Todd Connor’s report suggests, more to the story?
Well, who better to ask than a recent graduate? Duncan Currie is a member of the class of 2004 and has gone back to Harvard to cover the Larry Summers controversy for our sister publication, The Weekly Standard.
So Duncan, first of all, your thoughts about what happened today, and then your general thoughts about what Harvard is like these days. Is it more or less like the conservative caricature than people paint it? Go ahead.
DUNCAN CURRIE, WEEKLY STANDARD WRITER: Thanks, Brit. Today, I wasn’t so surprised about the faculty vote. There had been reports early on that there were so many faculty members who wanted to speak on the issue, that there was not going to be any resolution on it: no confidence or confidence vote either way today.
HUME: Let me ask you one question. Let me just stop you for one thing. If there had been a no confidence vote, and this faculty had voted in favor of that, voted no confidence, what would that have meant practically? Would he have had to step down? Or would it just have been an expression of faculty opinion?
CURRIE: I think it would have been the latter, although under those circumstances, I think there would have been intense pressure for him to resign.
But in regards to your previous question about Harvard, I think this incident and my experience in talking to students on campus today shows that Harvard students are far more conservative friendly. I don’t know if I’d use the word "conservative," but conservative friendly, than they were say, 20 years ago or certainly during the anti-war Vietnam movement in the late 60s and early 70s.
There was, as our previous correspondent mentioned, a rally in opposition to Summers today in front of the science center. And it only drew, by my count, maybe four-dozen hard-core supporters. A few — a handful of students stopped by to check out what was going on. And the interesting thing about that was that the anti-Summers rally really had very little to do with its comments a month or so ago.
There were a number of causes that were discussed, including Harvard divesting from oil companies that do business in Burma and the Sudan, providing a living wage to Harvard workers, their supposedly shabby treatment of Cornell West and other black scholars. But very little on his actual remarks, which I thought was interesting.
HUME: What about the — there was also, I gather, a knot of pro-Summers protesters. What about them? How many were they?
CURRIE: They — I didn’t see them in the vicinity — I was at the anti-Summers protest. There were random students who would walk by and shout a pro-Summers statement or two.
CURRIE: But yes, one guy, one puckish young fellow ran by and said, "Larry is the man." But I think pro-Summers statement has been concentrated on a Web site, StudentsforLarry.org and it was started by three young women who wrote an op-ed piece last Friday in The Crimson expressing their support for President Summers. And on the Web site, you can sign your name to support the op-ed piece.
And the last time I checked, which was about 1:30 Tuesday afternoon, there were over 420 students, parents and alumni, mainly students who had signed it. So, in my opinion, the vast majority of students, if they’re not pro-Summers, they’re at the very least anti- anti-Summers. And that they may think what he said was a bit foolish or a bit irresponsible, but they do not think that this is a hangable offense by any means.
HUME: Now, how does he stand, as far as you can tell, Duncan, with the school administration or the school hierarchy as it exists above him? I guess there’s a board of governors, and there’s various other entities that have some Harvard Corporation, I gather. What about them? How does he stand with them these days?
CURRIE: In my opinion, he stands fairly well with them, from everything I have read. The people who really — the people whose feathers he really ruffled the past 2 1/2 years or so have been the faculty. And there’s two issues in particular. One, which has been somewhat omitted from a lot of the coverage of this recent flap, is that Harvard is moving and is in the process of moving a fairly sizable chunk of its academic facilities across the river into Allston.
And Summers has, in the opinion of many of his critics in the faculty, exerted a great too much influence on the decisions about who’s going to move, which departments are going to move, what professors are going to have to relocate. And obviously, you know, being moved across the river is not a desirable outcome for a lot of the faculty. And they think he’s handled this whole process, which is a huge endeavor for Harvard, in a bully-like manner.
And you know, in the opinion of many of Summers’ supporters, this latest incident is merely kind of a stalking horse for them to take him down for their, what in their eyes is a real sin, which is excluding them from these debates.
HUME: So is it possible, Duncan, that all this controversy about the Summers controversy turns out not to be so much about some politically incorrect or at least politically insensitive comments that he made in a discussion of aptitude between men and women. But instead, is really about faculty grievances over who’s going to move out of the wonderful and friendly confines of Cambridge and across the river into someplace I’m sure they all regard as Coventry?
CURRIE: Certainly. I think that’s a great point. I wouldn’t want to overemphasize the Allston aspect of this. But because, on the other hand, there has been faculty grievances against Summers since I was there. I was a freshman in the fall of 2000, and Summers came on about halfway through my freshman year as president.
Other incidents, such as the flap over Cornell West about two years ago. Summers made comments, I would say sometime early in my junior year which would have been early 2002, on Israel. And one — I know there were a few professors, James Traub wrote a piece in The New York Times magazine about Summers, saying that a lot of the professors he had talked to thoroughly loathe Summers. So I think it’s a broader animus towards him.
HUME: All right. Duncan, thanks so much for helping us out tonight. Glad to have you.
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